True State of Our Union
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success” – Henry Ford.
We purposefully avoid political discussions on this site because so much of that these days is based on falsehoods and an uninformed blame game amplified by media outlets that align with certain political views. One side builds up a specter of the other side, points a finger of blame, villanizes the other, and tries to implement whatever policy they claim will fix everything. None of that works, though. None of that changes anything, and governments continue to repeat mistake after mistake, leaving we the people holding the bag.
Neither political party nor any new third party will give you the straight, unvarnished truth about our current condition as it doesn’t really help with their re-election bid. In this blog, we will try to tell you the actual state of our Union. We will try to leave the soundbites and quick fix panacea dream policies aside and instead focus on the actual state of the Union. We’ll look at the issues dividing our nation, the potential spark to push us over the edge, and discuss what you can do now. There’s a lot to unpack here. So let’s dive in…
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Conflict has always been a part of politics. Hypothetically, the laws of our land, the way we regulate ourselves and others, are determined by an eventual agreement between at least two diametrically opposed viewpoints. At times, when the views are too far apart, periods of extreme violence can follow. The Civil War was probably the clearest example of that. The struggles of the labor movement and conflicts preceding and following the rulings of Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka, Plessy versus Ferguson, Roe versus Wade, and other significant historical interpretations of the Constitution have often resulted in violent clashes.
Either party blames the other for all the things wrong in the world. Either party demonizes and dehumanizes the other. The reality is that this two-party bicameral system may very well consume itself with its hate and vitriol. The political chasm has widened to levels many of us have never seen in our lifetime, and it seems to be ever-widening. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is warning of increased domestic violence, and we see those threats materialize in real-time as we head into midterm elections. These violent domestic flare-ups centered around political divisions are even more significant than the cyberattacks, terrorist threats, and foreign governments seeking to foment division and weaken the US’s standing in the world. However, all of these threats still exist.
With the current political turmoil we’re experiencing in our nation, there is sufficient spark to ignite the powder keg sitting under our stable lives. Even without such a violent end to our regulating establishment, it’s enough to further stoke divisions and apply even more pressure to the brakes of gridlock. If anything, the world moves faster than it did even 50 years ago, and our government, so divided, is woefully too slow to keep pace. Our elected and appointed leaders are so slow to decide which road to take that it is easy to fathom that we may be hurtling headlong into the concrete median in the middle.
For the last half-century, the income gap between the haves and the have-nots has increased. The middle class, those able to eke out a comfortable but not overly luxurious existence, has shrunk almost every year since 1971. This occurs when corporate profits have increased more than 141% and CEO pay has risen by more than 298%, so not everyone is a loser in this equation. It distills down and is measured by one’s ability to maintain a standard of living. That is to say that factors such as income, employment, poverty rates, access to food, medicine, clean water, and housing affordability determine a person’s standard of living.
Most are priced out of the American dream right now. The median income in 1970 was almost $10,000. Adjusted for inflation in today’s dollars, that would be the equivalent of a little over $75,000. The median home price was $17,000. Adjusted for inflation in today’s dollars, that would be $128,000. Suffice it to say that it is doubtful you can find a home in the United States for $128,000. The median price of houses sold in 2022 was $428,700, well over 300% more costly than fifty years ago. Even throwing out the dream of a property of one’s own, rents have also gone up. In 1970, the median rent was a mere $108. Adjusted for inflation to put that in dollars today, that would be a median rent of $813. I’m not renting now, but even a cursory look at the rentals available in my area tells me that you can’t find anything very livable for $813. The median rent price nationwide is $1,104, which is a 35% increase.
There is an undeniable disparity between the realization of the American dream in the 1970s and today’s American dream. Every stat you look at, from home prices to rent to the price of a gallon of milk or a dozen eggs, shows the same widening disparity. An ever-increasing majority is finding that just the cost of gas alone is forcing a choice between working to break even or just quitting altogether, and the last few years have quickened the pace. One recent study shockingly revealed that inflation has 67% of people dipping into their savings or retirement to pay for necessities. U.S. household debt increased by $1 trillion in 2021. Student loan debt is in the trillions. Mortgage interest rates have risen. Mortgage delinquencies have risen, bankruptcy filings have increased, and median home prices have soared far beyond previous bubbles. Foreclosures have surged 181% over last year, as COVID relief measures have expired. Expect that number to skyrocket over the coming months, enhanced by higher interest rates and inflation pressures.
Whether the income inequality that led to such events as the French Revolution is ever realized will remain to be seen. One thing is certain, though. The inequality and the failure of the system to provide the average working citizen with the means to eke out a reasonable standard of living have to come to a head. In its lightest incarnation, that takes the form of labor movements, strikes, and periods and pockets of conflict. In its most extreme, there is an explosive revolt, followed by a period of restructuring. Just like the political chasm, the income disparities and lower standard of living for the median citizen are dry fuel for a more significant fire.
Anti-intellectualism is hostility to and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectualism, commonly expressed as deprecation of education and philosophy and the dismissal of art, literature, and science as impractical, politically motivated, and even contemptible human pursuits. Do those concepts sound familiar?
Perhaps the opposite of intellectualism is the conspiracy theories. In recent years and encouraged and increased through the internet and social media, conspiratorial theories are far more accepted than scientifically derived facts. There’s often an outright distrust of intellectuals and facts that counter one’s own confirmation bias. A confirmation bias is a cognitive bias that favors information that confirms previously existing beliefs or biases. Whatever you label it, there is an evident movement away from trusting information.
This sometimes plays out as merely an argument, and people move on to their everyday lives. Other times we see it leading to conflicts and persecution. We don’t know what side you, the viewer, may be on, and it doesn’t really matter. This is an age-old battle between science and religion, brains and brawn, technology and the old ways. Still, today, the fires of this ancient battle seem to be heating up more than they have in the past. Whether that’s enough to boil over into a nationwide conflict or just smolder along as it always has, remains to be seen. One thing is sure, though, like the political chasm and the income equalities, it’s more dry tinder for a more significant fire.
States’ rights are the powers held by individual US states rather than the federal government. It has been argued publicly and privately as far back as 1798 when Thomas Jefferson and James Madison secretly wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions provided a classic statement supporting states’ rights and called on state legislatures to nullify unconstitutional federal laws. That was 224 years ago, and I would venture to say that the average American couldn’t tell you what the Alien and Sedition Acts were. They may not know much about the other flare-ups of States’ Rights in 1832, the 1850s, 1876, or even the 1950s and 60s.
States’ rights are almost a barometer of the populace’s willingness to find mutual compromise on the most divisive issues of the day. It’s a battle that has raged as long as we have been a Union of States. Often it was settled in Congress or the Supreme Court. Sometimes it was settled on the battlefield or in the streets. Our “Union” hasn’t been without its bumps, bruises, scrapes, and gaping wounds. We see the States’ Rights issue flaring up in recent years.
Currently, we are seeing small measures that call for seceding from the Union if certain conditions aren’t met, maintained, or changed. Both sides of the political spectrum seem okay with the possibility of a State eventually seceding– those left and right coast liberals and those midwesterners and southerners increasingly tease the idea of separating from the Union. The country’s currently highly-interlaced economic and military structures would make the reality of a State seceding remote. Still, we have seen citizens march on State and Federal capitals, so it isn’t as outlandish as it might seem. At the very least, the continued debate over States’ rights will play out aggressively in cities, states, and courtrooms. So, like the widening political chasm, income inequalities, and anti-intellectualism vein, States’ rights too are dry tinder for a much larger fire.
In my opinion, the most likely spark for all that dry tinder of division is the failing economy and inflation. The Fed has been printing money and dropping the interest rates so low to stoke the fires of the economy that these methods no longer work. 24% of all the dollars in the money supply were created in just the last 24 months, but the economy hasn’t produced more. It hasn’t sold more. It hasn’t been very productive at all. In fact, it has retracted significantly. None of the policies implemented cure the spending and debt problem. Government borrowing and spending, worker’s being sick or refusing to work, the war in Ukraine, Chinese lockdowns, low-interest rates, corporate greed, and supply chain disruptions are all valid reasons for the current inflation we are experiencing.
Inflation is approaching 10%, and on some items, prices have gone up much higher. It’s higher than it has been since 1981–41 years ago. The US economy will grind to a halt in the 2nd half of 2023, and the following year won’t be much better. That’s a very long time for a spark to be hanging around all that dry tinder of discord. America’s buying power has declined steadily over the last several years and dramatically in the face of inflationary pressures. It’s not just your wallet impacted by the fiscal problems.
Unless the economic picture worldwide and domestically improves soon, all the conditions for some type of violent change are possible. We have seen enough comments on my videos and on various websites calling for violent revolution. Having seen firsthand while living in Afghanistan in 2003 providing humanitarian aid, we know what war does to a country, and we think it’s not in anyone’s best interest for a total collapse. Unfortunately, even those typically most willing to stay within the lines are seeing some merit to radical change. That does not bode well for the status quo. Whether that leads to an outright, violent revolution or we sidestep what is increasingly appearing to be inevitable remains to be seen. One thing is for sure. Just like every violent upheaval of the past, there are things you can do to insulate yourself from that possibility.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
When the economy falters, you’ll be thankful if you have taken measures to prepare and develop some level of self-sufficiency, even if only for a few weeks or months. If violence breaks out across the country, you will be faced with some difficult decision. When the supply chain that brings food from farm to table fails or the infrastructure that provides power and freshwater ceases to work, you will either be prepared or you will be a victim.
So, what can you do? First, get your essential preps in order: food, water, energy, security, medical, health, and shelter. While you are doing that, actively try and learn new skills. If the dollar becomes worthless, what you know how to do will be a tradeable commodity.
If you any tradeable skills, such as being able to hunt, fish, make soap, brew, can, pickle, sew, knit, mechanics, build, medical arts, garden, herbal remedies, forage, or scavenge, and you have put these skills into practical use from time to time, you’re going to be better equipped to survive the aftermath of a disaster. The phrase ‘knowledge is power’ could not be more accurate. After just a few generations, we have become accustomed to meeting our needs with a few clicks of a keyboard or with a few words and a little money.
Build a physical library of a few forgotten skills, crafts, and sustainable activities of the past. You may not need a Dakota Fire Pit now, but it might not hurt to know how to build one later. Don’t rely on gear you have never pressed into service to work correctly in a disaster. Your best prep is our skills and knowledge. You have to start now and not just contemplate getting started prepping.
America’s strength has always come from its ability to unite, work together, and overcome any obstacle or enemy, but that seems to be behind us now. We wish we could say there was some unifying event on the horizon that could bring us together, but we don’t see one.
At the end of the day, it’s up to people to learn to take care of themselves. You can support the status quo and lament the changing world as it changes around you. You can try and drive that change and watch your best efforts to create some positive outcome for yourself evaporate in the chaos of the resulting storm. You can sit on the sidelines and do nothing and become a victim.
If history is any indicator and the present world is any sign of things yet to come, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Perhaps sooner than you think, there will be a time when your lights are off. There may be a time when your water is unfit to drink. The only thing you can do to position yourself to survive the fire from all that dry tinder and the spark is to prep. Start small by building your supplies for a 3-day supply, then 3-week, then at least 3-months. You can check out my Ultimate Guide on How to Build 1 Year of Food Storage in this video. This will put you better positioned than 90% of the population.
We would like to say that some substantial change will come that will unite us, but we only see the divisions becoming increasingly broader. While we’d like to provide solutions to these issues, the only thing we know we have control over is preparing. And we would advise you do the same.
As always, stay safe out there.